JIS News

The Red Cross and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) have been working in conjunction with the Social Development Commission (SDC) to bolster the readiness skills of persons living in disaster-prone communities.
The three organizations signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in November 2003, in which they agreed to work together to implement a natural disaster risk management programme in six communities in four parishes.
The programme will be funded by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the headquarters of the local Red Cross to the tune of US$225,000.
Along with Jamaica, the International Federation has also earmarked funding for Caribbean neighbours St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia to examine their risk management capabilities.
The Jamaican communities selected for the pilot programme are Savanna-la-mar in Westmoreland; Ewarton in St. Catherine; Malvern and Balaclava inSt. Elizabeth; and Whitehorses and Cedar Valley in St. Thomas.
Director of Community Development and Programmes at the SDC, Mona Sue Ho, told JIS News that the major aim of the project was to reduce the effects of natural disasters in these communities.
To accomplish this result, Mrs. Sue Ho said a series of workshops would be staged in the communities to sensitize them about the need to plan for the “before” and “after” phases of a disaster.
Giving more details about the workshops, she said: “We look at the “before” stage, the prevention and preparedness, looking at what should be done at the onset and during the disaster. We also look at the “after” stage, which is the response, rehabilitation and reconstruction phase. So in the workshops, we are looking at the entire management cycle, helping the community to be organized, and to look at their capacity to deal with disasters when they do happen.”
Mrs. Sue Ho said the six communities elected were prone to wind damage and flooding. Speaking specifically of Whitehorses, she said it was a prime candidate for flooding because it was close to the hills and was affected by run-off.
The SDC Director also mentioned her organisation’s role. “In this project, the SDC will basically make initial contact with communities and facilitate the selection of members of the disaster committee within each respective community,” she said.
Discussing the role of the Red Cross in the project, she said, the SDC would also be “working very closely with the Red Cross in training in areas such as disaster planning and vulnerability and training in first aid.”
Meanwhile, ODPEM is offering technical assistance in the form of relevant data and will also assist in the training workshops.
Mrs. Sue Ho noted that the SDC intended to use the training of community members in the pilot phase of the natural disaster risk management programme to inform its own planning with other communities in future.

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